Sketches of Redskins Fandom

Football is a game of numbers, statistics, metrics, predictions, analysis, massive crowds, huge salaries, gigantic men. My relationship to football, my personal connection to it, is far different – its basis in the intimate and not the organized – I never played for or cared about my junior or high school teams, but spent afternoons in the neighborhood, running post routes in the street, tackling my friends into piles of dog shit; and Sundays on the couch, shouting at the TV. My perspective on the ‘big picture’ is ever evolving, during some seasons I get in such a disgusting funk over the whole thing I can’t bear to watch, other seasons it’s all I can do not to replay a game three times during week. I’ve at times been casual, meticulous, and absent in my fandom. I’ve been zealous, and then skeptical, and then angry, and then glad. It comes …

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Taxes and Cat Videos

As W2’s start filling inboxes around the USA, just a quick reminder that taxing the American citizen’s hard work last year has provided the government with the necessary funds to create this brilliant, masterful tale of a cat registering for social security benefits: Hopefully next year there’s a sequel with the cat trying to register for Healthcare. I’m sure it will be Oscar worthy.

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Brian’s Christmas List

The Official “Kind of Religious but Mostly Just Shameless Holiday Shopping Season” is upon us! So to help everyone out, I’ve simplified your worry about what to buy me! Fifteen little elfish gnomes to do my dirty bidding – sitting in traffic, making ‘small’ talk, cleaning that piece of wall behind the sink, washing the towels. The beach, for a year or so. A name change for the guy who owns www.brianhowell.com, or for him to be less weird. A thing to wear on my wrist that tells me how many steps I’ve taken. New and interesting and beautiful places to take steps to, all the time. An empty hour glass, which I can put my own sand in. Redskins Super Bowl. (Good luck, Santa.) More of the Simpsons. Forever. Warm socks. A winter with snow in Washington, D.C. for which I will wear warm socks. An ounce of my …

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NaNoWriMo 2013 – Plane Anthem

Today National Novel Writing Month begins. For the past few months (or years) I’ve flirted with the idea of writing a novel, and made tiny bits of progress. I have collected a scattered and diverse bunch of snippets, thoughts, conversations, ideas, and observations, and somehow intend to craft them into a novel-length work of fiction. I’ll try to update a few times this month with blog posts about how my experiment is going, and hope to find some feedback from other writers online who are participating in NaNoWriMo this November. My working title is “Plane Anthem,” and here’s a few paragraphs from the chapter that I pinched the title from: ….. Jerome is sitting at his desk and he texts me.  I read the message as I sit on the bus – “can’t do 5 today come cheese” He’s not desiring cheese but his phone probably autocorrected ‘call Chase’ into ‘come …

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Current Status

Sitting in LAX wondering why I’m about to return to a city where in the last few days a man immoliated himself on the National Mall, and police shot and killed a woman who crashed her car into the White House while driving with her one year old infant. And this just a few weeks after the Navy Yard terror. Are we done with normalcy, as a nation?

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Trip Note 1, IAD – SYD

I already feel opened up to ‘deep travel‘ in the sense that aggravating situations are transformed into experiences of something different. Instead of being angry that I was next to a screaming toddler on the last flight, it was more of an opportunity to observe, “oh, this is what a screaming toddler looks like up close. I don’t see that often. Cool.” Travel takes situations that everyday would be nuisances and makes them vibrate with a less hazardous nature. Because it can be expensive, and because its away from the regular responsibilities of daily life, and because not everyone is fortunate enough to have the means to do it, I suppose a traveler might feel some guilt when preparing for a trip, since they are so lucky to undertake it. But really, the object of travel is to be humbled by the place you’re going, to be reminded that your …

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on Monopoly, and OKcupid

I have been reading one of John McPhee’s essay collections with a friend, and we came across his piece on Marvin Gardens, the Atlantic City neighborhood featured in the Monopoly board game. The essay portrays a distinction between wheeling and dealing in the fake world of Monopoly, and the real-life depressed economic condition of A.C., New Jersey. McPhee characterizes the familiar streets of the city, like Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues, the Boardwalk and Park Place – as completely derelict, empty of the wealthy optimism they represent in the game. We both found it interesting that a game could represent, in such a different way, the condition of an actual thing – in this case, a city. I realized I could extrapolate the thinking a bit more and apply it to online dating – is the dating website OKcupid very different, in terms of attempting to recreate reality, from Monopoly? A. …

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On Travel, Time, and Plans

In 66 days I’m heading to Australia for a few weeks. Sixty six is an even number, but feels like an odd amount of days. Odd in the sense of familiarity. This is a plan. A plan to spend a certain amount of time in a distant place. A span of time shorter than the 66 days preceding it, and the 66 days that will follow. I’m counting on the trip to fulfill my wanderlust, give me stories to tell for the rest of my life, placate some strange need I have to fly entirely across the world and track down something, that for whatever reason, I have decided doesn’t exist in a nearer radius. But what about the ‘be here now’ philosophy? Since making the resolution to leave and ‘Explore,’ I’ve had several excellent weeks. As if making the vague plan to have an amazing experience was all I …

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on Language, and the Careful Appreciation of Rap Music

When I was 9 years old, a rapper named Calvin Broadus from Long Beach, California, released an album called “Doggystyle,” using the stage name Snoop Dogg. Somehow, through the pop-culture distribution channels of the early 1990’s, a cassette tape of that album made its way into the Walkmen of me and my third-grade friends. We tossed around Nerf footballs and drank juice from paper boxes on the carefully landscaped lawn of our shiny, brand new elementary school while Snoop chanted into our boombox, “for all my niggaz and my bitches and my bitches and my niggaz wave yo motha fuckin hands in the air, and if you don’t give a shit like we don’t give a shit, wave yo motha fuckin’ fingas in the air.” According to my parents, the first word I ever uttered was “moon.” There was something special about the way it sounded, I think – almost …

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on Shamelessness

Walking into the stadium for a Nationals game, I was taking in the sights and sounds of the crowd when I heard a street vendor selling baseball caps: “Nats caps, Five dollars! They’re TEN dollars over there, don’t be ashamed, get yours for FIVE right here! No one cares if you get the ten dollar hat. Be smart!” The tone of his voice when he said ‘don’t be ashamed’ struck me. This was not a cheap sales tactic. There was gravitas. This man did not want someone to feel ashamed at making a less expensive purchase, not because he would lose the sale, but because he was looking out. I already have more Nats caps than I can handle, so I didn’t take him up on the offer, but I commend his effort to lay waste to false dignity. Don’t be ashamed. It’s good advice, in general. Whether you’re buying …

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